China-Japan relations

Japan's coastguard saves Chinese crew as cargo ship Ming Yang burns

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2017, 4:55pm

Japan's coastguard yesterday saved all 64 Chinese seamen from a burning cargo ship, as the two nations remain locked in a dispute over contested islands.

The coastguard was alerted by Taiwanese authorities late on Saturday about the fire on the 12,703-tonne Ming Yang, and sent patrol vessels and aircraft to the scene, around 150 kilometres southeast of Okinawa.

By 2.30 am yesterday, a Japanese coastguard ship had saved 21 people who escaped on a life raft, while the other crew remained on the deck of the burning freighter, registered in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

All the seamen were rescued by 3.47 am, with three of them suffering minor injuries, the coastguard said, adding that the ship's chief engineer had reported hearing sounds resembling an explosion from the main engine on Saturday night.

Japan's coastguard has been busy monitoring waters around the disputed Diaoyu islands, known as Senkaku in Japan, far to the west of the burning freighter. It said four official Chinese vessels were in contiguous waters around the islands yesterday.

Such vessels have been spotted in waters off the islands as the dispute escalated over the past two months, with the boats at times entering a 12-nautical mile territorial zone. Tensions peaked in mid-September after Japan bought several of the islands.

Tourism has been declining for the past few months.

But over the weekend about 1,500 mainland tourists on board the luxury cruise ship Costa Victoria arrived in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto prefecture, for a fireworks display, Japanese media reported.

The biggest mainland tour group to visit Japan since the row broke out decided to stick with the visit, booked in August, despite the tensions, a Japanese news portal affiliated to Japan-base As@ia, reported on Saturday.

Industry and trade representatives in Yatsushiro hoped the visit would help ease bilateral relations, the report said.

Additional reporting by Raymond Li